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Court Rule

N1915.1 Child Custody Conferance Officer. Child...

1. The child custody conference officer shall conduct pre-hearing conferences in all habeas corpus actions involving custody of children (including primary, partial and visitation custodial matters) at such times and places as the child custody conference officer shall from time to time direct. The child custody conference officer shall conduct pre-hearing conferences, encouraging and supervising the formulation of settlement agreements between the parties, and, as necessary, interim Orders in accord with the procedures herein. The child custody conference officer shall perform such additional duties as the Court from time to time directs.

2. Unless otherwise ordered by the Court for substantial cause shown, pre-hearing conferences before the child custody conference officer are mandatory in all cases relating to child custody or visitation, including proceedings begun under the Divorce Code and by complaint for custody, and including issues of child custody, confirmation of custody, partial custody, visitation, modification of custody and contempt proceedings.

3. At the time of filing the complaint for custody or other pleading raising an issue which is subject to the requirement of a pre-hearing custody conference, the party filing the pleading shall attach thereto and present to the motions’ judge a proposed order in the form set forth at Pa. R.C.P. 1915.15 (c), the conference date to be in accord with the next available conference list, which, except for good cause shown, shall be within 45 days (as required by Pa. R.C. P. 1915.4(a)), but not less than 21 days from the date of filing the Order.

4. The party who files such a claim shall file simultaneously a praecipe placing the matter on for conference on the date of the next available conference list.

5. The party filing such a claim shall file simultaneously with the prothonotary a pre-trial conference statement, together with a notice to respond. The service copy shall include a blank pre-trial statement for use by the opposing party. The pre-trial conference statement shall contain the following information:

(a) name, age, address (including the school district) of the party’s residence, employment information, telephone numbers, and name of the attorney
representing the party, if any;
(b) the opposing party’s name, age, address (including the school district) of the residence, and employment information;
(c) the marital status of the parties, and date of separation, if applicable;
(d) name, address and date of birth of the child(ren) subject to the proceeding;
(e) the residence(s) of the child(ren) during the lifetime of the child(ren);
(f) list (and copies) of prior orders, if any, and list of evaluations or reports, if any (copies of reports and evaluations should not be attached to the
statement, but provided to the custody conference officer at the conference);
(g) a description of the actual current custody/visitation arrangements, if any;
(h) a description of the physical and mental health conditions and school performance of the child(ren) and a description of any special circumstances of the parties, the child(ren) or the situation;
(i) a statement of the relief the party seeks; and
(j) description of any efforts to resolve the matter and a proposal for resolution.
6. The party filing such a claim shall serve on the opposing party copies of the pleadings, the preliminary order, praecipe, notice to respond, pre-trial statement of the filing party and a blank pre-trial statement for the opposing party’s use. An affidavit of service of the foregoing shall be filed no later than the time for the custody conference.

7. The party filing such a claim shall provide to the court administrator a copy of the praecipe, which shall include proper addresses of all parties and counsel. The address of any unrepresented party shall be the address of said party as set forth in the pleadings unless good cause is shown to use a different address. The court administrator will forward notice of the hearing date and time by regular mail.

8. Except upon good cause shown, which shall include situations where a parent has absconded with or without the child(ren), the custody conference will not be conducted in the absence of service and notice as required herein, and will be continued pending service and notice.

9. If all parties are in agreement to continue a custody conference, the party shall notify the court administrator of the agreed continuance request in writing. Where a request for a continuance of custody conference is opposed, such request shall be made in writing through the office of the custody conference officer and may be granted by the custody conference officer only upon certification that there has been an attempt to obtain an agreement of the opposing counsel or party and only upon good cause shown, or order of court. In all cases where a custody conference is continued, the party seeking the continuance shall file a new praecipe as set forth above.

10. Not later than three days preceding the date for the conference, the respondent shall file with the prothonotary an original pre-trial conference statement in accord with Paragraph 5 of this rule (and in the form attached hereto), and shall provide a copy to the opposing party or counsel. At the time of the conference all parties shall provide to the custody conference officer copies of the filed pre-trial statements. Pre-trial statements shall not be mailed to the custody conference officer. Failure to comply with this procedure may result in a finding of contempt with appropriate sanctions.

11. Conference procedures are set generally in the discretion of the custody conference officer. Counsel for all parties shall be prepared to present to the custody conference officer all information as necessary for the custody conference officer to ascertain the issues. Conferences are not of record and no testimony is taken by the custody conference officer. In the custody conference officer ’s discretion, the custody conference officer shall attempt to determine the relevant facts through discussion with counsel, the parties and third parties. All parties shall be admitted to the conference as directed by the custody conference officer. Upon request of a party or the custody conference officer , the custody conference officer , in the custody
conference officer’s discretion, may interview the child(ren) in the presence of counsel.
Generally, the custody conference officer will not interview children less than 10 years of age and unless specifically ordered by the Court or requested by the custody conference officer, children should not be present for the conference.

12. If the custody conference officer determines that the parties have reached a full or partial agreement, the custody conference officer shall prepare a proposed order setting forth the terms of the agreement and promptly forward to the motions’ judge for review. Said order shall be effective the date of the conference. The custody conference officer may prepare an agreed order based upon the submission of a written stipulation executed by counsel of record and/or the parties.

13. If the custody of the child(ren) is in controversy and unresolved in part or full following the conference, the custody conference officer may do any one or all of the following:
(a) prepare an order directing the parties to cooperate with all applicable evaluations. Copies of any reports shall be provided to counsel for the
parties. Unless directed otherwise upon good cause shown, the costs for such evaluations shall be placed equally upon the parties and shall be paid
in advance. Upon application by a party or on its own motion, the Court may assess evaluation costs as part of the costs of the action. In the event
a party fails to cooperate with a home evaluation, the evaluation shall be completed only as to the compliant party and the lack of cooperation of the
other party may be considered by the court against the non-cooperating party as a presumption that the report as to the non-cooperative party
would have been negative. Nothing herein shall preclude a party from seeking relief by a petition for special relief.
(b) set deadlines for investigative reports and evaluations necessary to prepare the case for presentation to the court;
(c) designate a non-jury trial listing of the case;
(d) submit to the court a written resume of the conference, including any recommendations for disposition of the case;
(e) submit to the court a proposed interim order, which the court may enter pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1915.4(e) (authorizing interim special relief at any
time), subject to the right of any party to contest any provision of the interim order by filing an application for special relief pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1915.13. Notice of this right shall be set forth in the interim order. The party filing a petition for special relief hereunder shall provide a copy
to the custody conference officer, who may prepare for review by the Court a report of the conference.
14. Following receipt of ordered evaluations and investigations, but prior to listing for trial, either party (through counsel, if any) may praecipe the matter for a subsequent conference with the custody conference officer who previously conferenced the matter, file a pre-trial conference statement in accord with these rules and provide to the custody conference officer at the conference copies of all evaluation and reports.
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Created at 1/29/2016 10:47 AM by Vitek Gajewski
Last modified at 1/29/2016 10:47 AM by Vitek Gajewski
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